Two road deaths, two stabbings, thirty-four fires, 273 injuries - Prague's Emergency Medical Service had its busiest night in five years on New Year's Eve. Though emergency services were called to a lot less cases in the rest of the country, the injuries caused by fireworks and the consumption of alcohol were dramatic. Dita Asiedu reports:
As is traditional, fireworks marked the New Year in Prague at midnight. Although most people who took to the streets of the Czech capital and other cities to celebrate managed to enjoy the occasion without incident, the combination of alcohol and explosive fireworks inevitably resulted in some serious and even tragic accidents.
A day before New Year's Eve a 26-year old Vietnamese national in West Bohemia died after being struck in the head by a firework. In Prague, a twenty-eight year old man suffered serious burns to his face after a firework exploded prematurely and 15 people had to be evacuated from an apartment building after a firework landed on a balcony and set a flat on fire.
Emergency Medical Services say controlled celebrations in the streets of bigger cities would help. One positive example was a massive concert organised by the country's biggest commercial station TV Nova. An estimated 10,000 people celebrated on the top half of Wenceslas Square with almost 200 Czech celebrities entertaining the crowd. The area was cordoned off and anyone who entered was searched for glass, fireworks, and weapons. For the first time, according to Ondrej Franek from Prague's Emergency Medical Service, this part of the square was the safest place in Prague:
"I think it was better than last year for us because most of the people were in one place on Wenceslas Square and it was much more pleasant for us to work in this large area than in small narrow streets in the Old Town. That is why we could have the so-called Golem, a big emergency truck, as a background for our service with some stretchers and nurses and so on as a fixed base for our service and we could arrange all the treatment in this area and the access was much better than to the Old Town last year."
This positive experience means Prague City Hall is now thinking of banning fireworks and alcohol in glass bottles in the city centre during future New Year's celebrations. City Hall spokesman Jiri Wolf:
"Following our experiences of this and last year City Hall is thinking of introducing such a ban in the central parts of the city where most injuries occur. This means on the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. The control measures that were in place during the New Year's celebration on the upper half of Wenceslas Square this year proved effective as there were practically no injuries at all."
Unfortunately, an extension of the ban to cover the entire city is technically impossible.